Republican Donald Trump was the big winner in presidential contests Tuesday in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii. But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton narrowly lost to Senator Bernie Sanders in Michigan because she underperformed with working-class white male voters, a group Trump does well with. This portends a serious problem for Clinton should she face Trump in the November presidential election.
Trump's victories came at a time when many political pundits predicted that he was peaking in the polls. Trump endured a massive advertising campaign financed by political action committees trying to knock him out. He withstood attacks from leaders of the Republican establishment. He even overcame perceived gaffes, including comparisons to Adolph Hitler. Nothing could dissuade loyal Trump supporters from voting for him.
Anger is the fuel of Trump-mania. Many Republican voters are totally fed up with the gridlock in Washington. Many dislike President Barack Obama, but many feel betrayed by Republicans in Congress who have not fulfilled their promises. And no group is more angry than working-class voters who feel left behind. From 1973 to 2013, the hourly wages of middle-wage workers were stagnant, rising just 6 percent, or less than .02 percent per year. Meanwhile, the annual wages for the top 1 percent have grown 138 percent since 1979.
Jobs are also an important issue for voters this election. While Michigan employment has been increasing over the past four years, it has only recovered 40 percent of the industrial jobs lost during the recession. The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was signed by President Bill Clinton, has resulted in nearly a quarter-million lost manufacturing jobs in Michigan. Senator Sanders and Trump both have been harshly critical of NAFTA and the recent proposal Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Clinton only recently announced her opposition to.
Trump has appealed to millions of disheartened Americans without having to provide much in the way of specifics on issues. He is a brash outsider who many voters think "tells it like it is." They are fed up with U.S. immigration policy. Despite a lack of details, they believe Trump will deport eleven million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, and they believe he will build a wall along the Mexican border and get Mexico to pay for it. Voters have overlooked the growing scandal surrounding Trump University, his petulant name calling and personal insults, and even his flip flops on key issues.
Trump will need to get 60 percent of the remaining delegates in the upcoming presidential contests in order to reach the 1237 delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Given his surprising performance Tuesday, and the fact that he has won so many southern states, where Texas Senator Ted Cruz was favored, and he is doing well among evangelicals and conservatives, it will be hard to stop him from achieving his goal. In fact, Trump has already begun the task of mending fences with the GOP establishment.
On the other hand, given her huge lead in the delegate count, it is very likely that Hillary Clinton will get her party's nomination. Her closely contested race with Sanders is but a tepid warmup for her likely clash with Donald Trump. Trump will relentlessly attack Clinton on foreign policy, like Libya and Benghazi, on women's issues, on President Bill Clinton's affairs, on the Clinton foundation, on emails, on Goldman Sachs speaking fees, and more.
Trump has had a major impact on the large Republican primary turn out so far, and on mobilizing working-class voters, as well as independents and Democrats. These are the voters Clinton will need to be elected president in November, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. While recent polls indicate that Clinton beats Trump in a head to head match up, it would be wise not to bet against Donald Trump.
On the other hand, in his book, The Art of the Deal, Trump wrote, "You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole." He concluded, "But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on." Can Donald Trump deliver the goods?